Frédéric Chopin - Fantaisie Opus 49 - Scherzo n°4 Opus 54 - Sonate n°3 Opus 58 - Polonaise-Fantaisie Opus 61
Fantasia in F minor Opus 49
Scherzo n°4 in E major Opus 54
Sonata n°3 in B minor Opus 58
Polonaise - Fantasia in A-flat major Opus 61
"Choc" du Monde de la Musique n°94
"Don't listen to anyone except the whispering wind..."
Independent in his thinking, independent in his creative life, Frédéric Chopin was clearly an infinitely complex man, very different from the popular picture given of him. On the basis of a few factors more or less outside his control, the myth-making began : neither wholly Polish nor completely French, Poland continues to lay sentimental claim to the composer. His native land has endured much, and he has been seen as a martyr. Most portraits of Frédéric Chopin show him as alluringly delicate. George Sand described him with more respect for the romantic image than for historic truth and - to top it all off - he suffered from that most romantic of ailments, the cruel affliction without which Marguerite Gauthier would probably have remained just an ordinary courtesan, but which Frédéric Chopin obviously did not require in order to live throughout the ages. Documents written in the composer’s hand and the reports of his pupils show us a very different man. In his letters to his friends and family Frédéric Chopin is often cheerful and ironic, sometimes angry ("Strauss is being played by every barrel organ in the street today!"), or hostile ("When you deal with Jews, at least be orthodox!").
A man who destroys chairs in the middle of a lesson, tears his hair and throws broken pencils onto the floor is hardly a porcelain figurine with a romantic cough. Frédéric Chopin’s relationships with other artists of his time have also been greatly exaggerated. Although it is true that he knew Honoré de Balzac, Eugène Delacroix, and Heinrich Heine, it is also true that he never showed any interest in their work (only Vincenzo Bellini gained his respect, and the Italian composer’s influence is in fact perceptible in Frédéric Chopin's melodic style).
To idealize Frédéric Chopin is to diminish the man as he really was.
In order fully to grasp the infinite richness of his spirit and his work he must be understood in all his complexity.
Even to attempt a definition of Frédéric Chopin's style leads us into a hall of mirrors where divergent influences proliferate (Italianate melody, the typically French sensuality of the harmonies), in which sonata form deserts the sonata and the concerto to reappear as the organizing principle of a Polonaise, and in which the improvisational quality created by the legendary rubato ends as a system in itself.
Neither the work nor the man can be reduced to a few stereotypes. So much the better.
The works selected for this recording date from the last years of Frédéric Chopin’s life (1841 to 1847). Should we thus immediately assume that these are mature works? Must we strain to find similarities between them? Not at all. Frédéric Chopin's work does not follow a regular line of development with clearly marked periods of creative activity. It has often been said that the final works show a lightening of tone. But here again, generalizations are impossible to make. One has only to listen to the somber Fantasia in F minor opus 49 (1841) to realize this. Here we have a vast and noble fresco shot through with the profundity of the initial chords. This work is not very different in spirit from the Funeral March of the Sonata in B-flat minor. This is one of Frédéric Chopin’s rare works to make use of the lower register of the keyboard (Frédéric Chopin was to compose shortly afterwards his Sonata for piano and cello). Each venture into the treble clef is immediately followed by a return to the bass, in a constant interplay of flux backward and forward.
There is no statement in the right hand unaccompanied by the grumbling bass of the left, as though the entire piece was irresistibly drawn to the nocturnal tones of the low notes. In terms of form, the piece is a return to the original meaning of "fantasia", i.e., freestyle use of the spirit (or the form) of the prelude or sonata. In the 19th century, the fantasia was completely divorced from its origins. It consisted for the most part of "pot-pourris" of popular opera themes. In the Fantasia in F minor a kind of rondo-sonata takes shape. This desire for clearly defined form in a genre that allows maximum liberty is remarkable, especially when we realize how hard it is to find a "true" sonata form in sonatas and concertos!
In contrast to the Fantasia, the Fourth Scherzo Opus 54 (1843) is a luminous work (the only one of the four scherzi written in the major), with a flexible structure. Over the serene melody with its ironic touches of the first part and the tender barcarolle of the second, a whole universe of contented peace bathes this work, a nostalgic universe unsullied by the slightest hint of bitterness. The final apotheosis releases a burst of joy, a kind of victory over the drama of the three other scherzi, if we allow ourselves to consider them as a whole.
The problem of whether or not a given group can be considered as a "whole" exists for the sonatas. Are they groups of movements written in relation to one another, or collections of genre pieces? (Leaving aside the question of the First Sonata op. 4, a skilful student exercise.) For the Sonata in B-flat minor, the answer is obvious : "I am in the process of composing a Sonata in B-flat minor", wrote Chopin to his friend Fontana, "in which there will be the Funeral March you know already. There's an Allegro, a Scherzo in E-flat minor, the March and a short Finale three handwritten pages long". This song of death was given a merciless reception by Schumann (who was nonetheless not as foolish as d'Indy), who said it : "It would be absurd to call is a Sonata, except for the fact of being determined to put four of his craziest children together under the same name".
The Sonata in B minor Opus 58 (1844) differs in every way from the preceding one. If we were to use one word to describe it, the perfect word would be "clarity". Here Chopin has turned towards the transparent light of Italy and his first movement is bathed in a joy expressed in long, full-voiced lyric cantilenas. Bellini's influence is more flagrant here than in any other page of Chopin's work. The hot Mediterranean sun is poured into a classic mould, with a real exposition, a real development and a repeat of the exposition that strikes a new note in working out the theme. The Scherzo is short and intense. Its improvisational thrust is contained but not hampered by a strict form : two contrasting sections and then a return to the first. In the Largo the Chopin of the Nocturnes puts in an appearance. A long, lean melody stretched like a country sunrise over a bass reduced to its simplest components. The central section carries the listener away through its capricious tonal line.
The triumphal rondo is devoid of the hallucinatory mystery of the Funeral Sonata Finale. This is a "Heroic" movement reminiscent of the liveliest Polonaises and the most brilliant Etudes. The initial octaves, like war-cries, lead into the rondo proper which, despite a form laid out "according to the book" is also full of improvisation. With this Sonata, Chopin returns to a form he cultivated at the beginning of his career (Sonata op. 4 and the two Concertos for piano) but this time adapted to the romantic spirit.
It should be noted how, despite the similarity of its movements to genre pieces, the Sonata in B minor is both rigorously constructed and supremely cheerful — one is almost tempted to find a connection between the two. But the final work on the selected program once again makes hasty generalisation impossible.
In the case of the Polonaise, Frédéric Chopin’s achievement was the renewal of an ageing, conventional form. The Polonaise was originally a stately court dance of great monotony, designed, as Franz Liszt once wrote, "primarily so that men could show off their good looks, their style, the martial, courtly bearing... It was a parade in which all society spread its tail, as it were". The Polonaise was a fixed form that Frédéric Chopin used successfully to express his patriotism (although he always kept his distance from his more virulent compatriots), the pain of exile, and his revolt against violence. His most remarkable achievement - and this is true for Frédéric Chopin’s work as a whole - was to have subtly integrated Polish folk music into the "classic" tradition, thus creating the first movement of national music.
The Polonaise-Fantasia opus 61 (1841) is contemporary with the Fantasia. It is also a dark work (here we are far from the Heroic Polonaise opus 53 or opus 40, n°1), and Frédéric Chopin also wrote of it, during its composition, that it was bad music for which he was writing little and erasing a great deal! Here, even more than with the Fantasia, he established a rigid mould and composed a sonata form. He gave a strict framework to a generally freewheeling piece that overflowed the boundaries of specific genres since the Polonaise-Fantasia is closer to the ballades than to the Polonaises. Everything ambiguous and unclassifiable in Frédéric Chopin’s work is to be found in these pages.
"Luisada has the style to make every note indispensable and to uncover poetic motifs in the deepest recesses of the score."
Profoundly shaping his musical talents were two teachers: Marcel Ciampi and Denyse Riviere, with whom he studied first in Paris, then at the Yehudi Menuhin School in England. He then began his studies at the Paris National Conservatory of Music, where he studied piano with Dominique Merlet and chamber music with Genevieve Joy-Dutilleux. Winning first prize in both disciplines, he began postgraduate work in 1978, while working regularly with Nikita Magaloff, Paul Badura-Skoda, and Milosz Magin, who would remain his teachers after the completion of his degree.
In 1983, Jean-Marc Luisada gave a prize-winning performance at the Dino Ciani competition at La Scala in Milan. In 1985 he was a prize winner at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw.
His success in Warsaw opened the door to an international career. Concerts across the globe ensued. Invited to tour Japan after the competition, he now returns on an annual basis to a faithful public.
In conjunction with the rise of his touring career, Jean-Marc Luisada recorded first with Harmonic Classics and then with the Deutsche Grammophon label with whom he realized numerous recordings - some of the most noteworthy are the Chopin waltzes and Mazurkas and the Grieg and Schumann concerti with the London Symphony Orchestra and Michael Tilson Thomas.
Jean-Marc Luisada has performed under the direction of Charles Dutoit, Adam Fischer, Theodor Guschlbauer, Eliahu Inbal, Hiroyuki Iwaki, Marek Janowski, Mikko Franck, Emmanuel Krivine, Yehudi Menuhin, Michel Plasson, Cord Garben, Jean-Bernard Pommier, Yutaka Sado, Stanislaw Skorwacewski and Michael Tilson Thomas with the LSO, NHK, Orchestre National de France, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, St Petersburg Orchestra, Sinfonia Varsovia, Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse.... He is also a devoted chamber musician and performs with the Fine Arts, Sine Nomine, Kocian, Modigliani and Talich quartets, as well as with Paul Meyer, Patrick Gallois, Gary Hoffman, Yuzuko Horigome, Philip Dukes, Josephine Knight, Laurent Korcia, Raphaël Oleg and Jean-Paul Fouchécourt.
Steinway Concert Grand
en Fa mineur
Scherzo n°4 Opus 54
en Mi majeur
Sonate n°3 Opus 58 en Si mineur
Scherzo. Molto vivace
Finale. Presto non tanto
Polonaise-Fantaisie Opus 61
en La-bémol majeur
Review"Choc" du Monde de la Musique n°94 :
Malgré un enseignement supérieur assez quelconque - exception faite d'un ou deux maîtres excellents -, la France compte actuellement un nombre assez impressionnant de jeunes pianistes qui peuvent prétendre à une carrière internationale. Jean-Marc Luisada est le fleuron de cette "école". Mais il ne faudrait pas oublier Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, Philippe Cassard , Laurent Cabasso, lesquels affirment de mois en mois leur talent, même si on les entend peu au concert.
Pour son premier disque, Luisada a choisi Chopin, on a envie de dire : "lui aussi". Mais en enregistrant des opus concomitants, il prouve un grand savoir-faire dans l'élaboration de ses programmes et un sacré culot puisqu'il joue ceux de la fin. Son Chopin renoue avec une manière sensible, frémissante, de jouer les romantiques. Luisada a un jeu coloré, extrêmement mobile sur le plan expressif (il ne s'écoute jamais jouer). Imprévu, voire fantasque, son phrasé évoque l'art d'un Cortot bien davantage que celui de Pollini. Il n'a pas, non plus, les certitudes d'Ashkenazy dont le jeu plombé ennuie tant dans Chopin. Son pianisme est superbe, sa main gauche, toujours admirablement timbrée, soutient, ponctue une main droite dont la souplesse capte toujours l'attention. Son finale de Sonate en si mineur mérite à cet égard de figurer parmi les plus belles réalisations musicales et pianistiques de ces dernières années. Ce rondo, généralement joué avec "férocité", prend, sous les doigts de notre pianiste, les allures d'un grand poème dont chaque strophe, chaque trait chante avec plénitude. Son Scherzo n°4 ne court pas la poste, il chante. Sa Polonaise-fantaisie, souple comme une liane, bruissante de mille sonorités, est un modèle de jeu chopinien - et quelle intelligence d'avoir utilisé la pédale tonale pour les dernières pages dont les harmonies ne s'embrouillent plus, mais flottent au-dessus du piano. Parfois affecté au concert, Luisada est ici d'une simplicité joyeuse, d'une sensualité frémissante qui confirment, s'il en était besoin, que sa cinquième place au Concours Chopin de Varsovie a été le fruit de la malchance. Pour moi - et pour d'autres - il est, d'ores et déjà, l'un des grands chopiniens de notre époque. - Alain Lompech
Technique : 8/10.